Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another Friendly Conversation: Angela Brown

Hi everyone! I'm really excited about this interview because I don't know anything about my guest, Angela Brown, other than the fact that she let me edit the first few chapters of her WIP Uncommon. So, enough from me; let's get on with it!

How did you get started as a writer?
My first foray into writing happened during my gifted & talented class when I was in elementary school. My teacher wanted us to write different stories, fables and poems. I remade the fable about Paul Bunyan and wrote a poem. She even took it to a printer, chose a pink cover and we called it the Hodgepodge. My favorite story was a dream sequence by another little girl. She wrote about our favorite boy band – on pain of dating myself and showing waaay to much age, I’ll refrain from naming them. From that day forward, I kept the idea of writing in the back of my mind. My first completed story was during my whimsical early 20’s, a fiction based on many painful events of my past. It was my form of therapy and a few friends really enjoyed it. But some things were best left in the past, so I moved on. It wasn’t until I went to a writer’s conference in 2006 to test the waters that I knew this writing thing was something I wanted to pursue as more than a hobby.

It was New Kids on the Block, wasn't it?

Do you free-write or outline?
I started as a pantser. That first novel? Not an outline in sight. Since then, I’ve been more of a loose outline kind of person when it comes to the story, however, when I’m dealing with my YA fantasy stuff, like my WiP AMONG DRAGONS AND MEN, I do detail outlining of the world structure, from ruling government down to extremely rough map of my world. Thankfully, a stretched out ‘S’ makes a fine river and unintelligible marks for mountains and forests can later be interpreted by someone with real artistic ability. I also started a glossary for special language words. For my current YA paranormal WiP UNCOMMON, I did a loose sketch of the plot, short character bios and have taken my time with it, following the detours my muse has taken me. And the muse has been nice lately. I must thank her. Smooches! Muah!

Dibbs on editing Among Dragons and Men. :-D

What do you do to counteract writer’s block?
Eat chocolate. After that, I play with my daughter, or as I usually call her, my chipmunk. Her laughter is intoxicating and invigorating. Then, I’ll just scribble on paper. That tends to leadto a ramble and then to a string of incoherent thoughts. Soon, the block is frightened away by the weird goings on in my mind. Sounds a bit odd, but it works for me J

Mmm, chocolate... I think I like you're method!

How do you keep your characters original? (i.e. what do you do to make sure your characters don’t turn out the same in every story?)
I find a character bio is a must. It helps in getting to know the character but also in comparing them to other characters to ensure I let each one develop their own way. Because I tend to take my time writing, I have conversations with them, especially if I find I’m unsure of the true way the character would react to a situation. Weird? Cha, but it allows me to get to know the Who, What, When, Where and the Why of their being, their purpose in the story. It also gives the characters a foundation to use me as their vessel to voice what they have to say. As much as I claim to own them, the story really is theirs. I just happen to be the lucky darling chosen to share their tale with the world.

Actually, not that weird. As I recall, David Powers King said he did something similar when I interviewed him (the post is here). And I think it's a pretty useful tool, too!

How do you build a believable world within your stories?

World building is something I detail out, especially fantasy. But whether it’s another world or an urban setting, I try to integrate the world building into the story and make it part of the dialogue, planting information in smaller doses to allow the reader to transition to the believability of the story. I also like to share certain activities or thought processes of the main character so bits and pieces of the world are introduced through their eyes, their senses. This is certainly more entertaining than an info dump.

This is a good technique, though I find you have to balance it with actual description and narration, otherwise it's easy to end up with a butler-and-maid situation.

What do you do to make your whole story interesting? How do you avoid “slow stretches”?
“Sagging moments” can be a bit bothersome, but I try to address them by first writing them out. Afterwards, I try to revise by including some action or something that helps to give the feeling that the story is moving forward, thus losing that “long stretch” feeling.

For perhaps the thousandth time, I'm going to refer everyone to my friend Shallee's post on the Action/Reaction principle because it's just golden (the post is golden...but then again so is the principle).

How does your own life inform your writing?
I like writing about things that, by some accounts, don’t exist. I suppose I just use the interactions I have with others to flip the script and see things in an oddball way, sort of turn a team meeting at work into a secret meeting of NEO (a group of preternaturals I’m building for my paranormal writing).

Nice! And, if nothing else, that will certainly liven up your meetings at work (at least for you)!

Have you ever attended a writing convention or conference?
I’ve participated in the Writer’s League of Texas Agent’s and Editors Conference, twice. The first time, I felt sooooo out of place but I also met some wonderful people, like Maria Zannini and Evelyn Palfrey, an author of “Marvelously Mature” romance. The main thing I learned is that I have a WHOLE lot to learn. And that I’m not alone. There are people I can help and people who are willing to help me. If it weren’t for learning that, I might have given up on my dream. But the people I’ve met have been very supportive. This was made evident when I had the honor of working in a critique group with Will Greenway and several other writers during my short stint in San Diego, CA. Good times, man, good times.

I have yet to attend a writing conference or convention of any sort. I'm going to try to attend a couple of local ones next year though. I'm really excited!

Who is your favorite author?
C.S. Lewis will always have a special place in my heart. His stories provided me with the ultimate feeling of escape and how the everyday norm can be transformed into something fantastical. Le sigh.

Nice choice! He has some excellent books. Apart from Narnia, I am particularly fond of Til We Have Faces and The Great Divorce. I've also been meaning to read his sci-fi series, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Favorite book?
The Narnia Chronicles

Of the Narnia books, I think The Horse and His Boy is the best, but most people disagree with me.

Favorite genre to read?
My favorite genre to read and write is dualistic: fantasy and sci-fi, from steampunk to dragons, and space opera to trolls falling in love, take me away J

Here here! Science fiction is my ultimate favorite, but it's so hard to find really well-done sci-fi. Fantasy is much more common, if you ask me, and therefore produces more quality titles.

When you’re not writing, what do you do in your spare time?
I’m not sure what this “spare time” is. I’ve heard of sparing a moment to steal a nap or running out of time, which I do often…but this “spare time”…hmmm…curious.

Hey! A fellow no-timer! Nice to know there are more of us out there. We could start a support group! ...but nobody would come.

What are three interesting facts about you?
  1. I self-published a novel under a pseudonym, mainly because I had a few friends interested in it and I wanted to learn more about what publishing entailed. However, it was a completely different genre and not for the 17-and-under crowd. I penned it as Rayven Godchild. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. It’s our little secret.
  2. Anime + Hayao Miyazaki = Happiness!!!! Heck yeah it does!
  3. Meeting Johnny Depp in person would be a guaranteed faint, on my part of course.

Thanks so much for the interview Reece. You are a blog star!!!

*blush* Aw, now you're just trying to embarrass me!


  1. I'm still so humbled by this. Thank you so much Reece. And as for the boy band, guess away but I will deny lol!!! :-)

  2. Great interview Angela :) It's nice to learn more about one my most frequent commenters ;)

  3. Thanks Brooke. I appreciate you checking it out.

  4. awesome interview! it was nice getting to know you, Angela (&Reece) you always have something positive to say =)

    i do have a question as a novice writer which I'm afraid to ask. Reece, can you elaborate on the "butler-maid" scenario? its prob a basic faux pas all thru my ms! always learning!

  5. This is such a great interview Angela :) I LOVE C.S. Lewis too. You have great tips here.

    Thanks Reece. I'm going to be much better about visiting your blog *hangs head in shame*, because it is just so dang awesome!

  6. Bio sheets are a must! And I like Lewis as well. I enjoy science fiction, but fantasy might be the next thing I tackle. (After writing just one more book...)
    Good interview, ladies!

  7. A butler-and-maid situation is basically an info-dump disguised as dialogue. It's often characterized by very long speeches with way more detail than the reader needs (and often than the characters in question should reasonably know). The term "butler-and-maid" refers to a trick authors used use in which one of the main characters overhears a conversation between two (or more) household servants and learns something important that would otherwise have been impossible (or nearly so) to discover. These days it's generally frowned upon.

  8. Great interview. Awesome questions and excellent answers :)
    By the way... The Horse and His Boy is my favourite Narnia story too :)

  9. Chocolate to counteract writer's block? Girl, you're freaking brilliant. Gotta love your methods!
    Great interview!

  10. I remember Evelyn! She was a hoot!

    That con was a long time ago, but you were one of my very favorite people I met that week.

    Thank you for staying in touch.

  11. And where are my manners!?

    It's nice to meet you, Reece! I've added your blog to my ever-increasing Reader.